The effects of drought stress on soybean nodule conductance and the maximum rate of acetylene reduction were studied with in situ experiments performed during two seasons and under differing field conditions. In both years drought resulted in decreased nodule conductances which could be detected as early as three days after water was withheld. The maximum rate of acetylene reduction was also decreased by drought and was highly correlated with nodule conductance (r = 0.95). Since nodule conductance is equal to the nodule surface area times the permeability, the relationship of these variables to both whole-plant and unit-nodule nitrogenase activity was explored. Drought stress resulted in a decrease in nodule gas permeability followed by decreases in nodule surface area when drought was prolonged. Under all conditions studied acetylene reduction on a unit-nodule surface area basis was highly correlated with nodule gas permeability(r = 0.92). A short-term oxygen enrichment study demonstrated nodule gas permeability may limit oxygen flux into both drought-stressed and well-watered nodules of these field-grown soybeans.